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Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens

The prettiest conservatories in London

Find much more than tomato plants in these glammed-up greenhouses around London

By Katherine Lovage and Things To Do Editors

London is blooming with conservatories that bring a whole new meaning to the term ‘urban jungle’. It’s easy to enjoy the great outdoors inside these glassy constructions that most DIY nuts could only dream of.

As well as being perfect pockets of leafy calm in the city, these magnificent conservatories house exotic plants, sun lounges and top-class restaurants, so whether you want your cappuccino with a side of cactus or a romantic dinner in an orangery, you’re sorted. If this is what a gardeners world looks like, you can count us in.

RECOMMENDED: The best outdoor spaces in London

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London’s prettiest conservatories

1. Temperate House, Royal Botanic Gardens

Attractions Parks and gardens Kew

Best for: getting lost in a ginormous glassy cathedral.

The return of the newly restored Temperate House is a horticulturalist’s delight. It’s a grade I listed glasshouse, twice the size of Kew’s much-loved Palm House and after a major five-year renovation, opened its doors to the public again in 2018. The intricate Victorian architecture has again been paired up with rare and wonderful plant species: more than 1,500 of them.

Anything else I should know? The Temperate House was voted Best UK National Treasure in 2018 - as if you needed more reasons to visit.

Price: Entry to Kew Gardens from £16.50

2. Barbican Conservatory

Attractions Parks and gardens Barbican

Best for: a lazy Sunday afternoon tea amongst the foliage.

This well-hidden and truly calming green oasis is home to more than 2,000 species of tropical plants and some exotic fish. It normally only opens on selected Sundays and bank holidays, but check before you set off. Make sure to book if you fancy their afternoon tea - priced at £35 pp including a glass of fizz.

Anything else I should know? Sorry pooches - it's no dogs allowed.

Price: Free


3. Petersham Nurseries

Restaurants Contemporary European Richmond

Best for: A magical fairylight-lit dinner in a rustic greenhouse

The ultimate in agricultural charm, complete with a real meadow on its doorstep, Petersham Nurseries is the perfect balm for the frazzled urbanite. Housed within the garden centre, the Café is set in a stately greenhouse, hung with Indian prints and pictures, and furnished with rickety tables and chairs.

Anything else I should know? Romantic and intimate, their supper clubs see the greenhouse lit by festoon bulbs and candles. Check their website for upcoming dates. 

Price: A la carte lunch menu offers mains at around £27, set menu supper clubs from £80 pp.

4. Palm House, Royal Botanic Gardens

Attractions Parks and gardens Kew

Best for: Perusing prehistoric plants

Kew’s iconic Victorian glasshouse is quite the stunner. The rainforest climate supports an impressive collection of tropical plants from some of the most threatened environments on the planet. Some are even extinct in the wild.

Anything else I should know? During the winter months, it’s lit up in colour for the annual Christmas at Kew light show, but it’s eye-grabbing all year round.

Price: Entry to Kew Gardens from £16.50.


5. Crossrail Place Gardens

Attractions Parks and gardens Canary Wharf

Best for: catching a rooftop theatre performance

The Crossrail Place roof gardens are covered almost entirely by a lattice of timber and air-filled plastic cushions which opens in the centre to allow a bit of the actual natural world in, come rain or shine. In the 19th century, trading ships from around the world would dock in this area, and the planting reflects its rich history with flora drawn from across the globe. There's also an amphitheatre space, used by schools, bands and theatre companies to entertain the crowds. 

Anything else I should know? The garden is based almost exactly on the Meridian line and the planting is arranged accordingly, with Asian plants such as bamboos to the east, and plants such as ferns from the Americas to the west.

Price: Free

6. Boundary Rooftop

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Shoreditch

Best for: top cocktails with a side of stunning views.

This Shoreditch rooftop bar boasts a beautiful heated orangery featuring lemon, clementine, calamondin and mimosa trees, and is open Monday to Sunday from 11.30am. Stop by for all-day cocktails whatever the weather: a negroni to warm you up, or a jug of spritz to cool you down.

Anything else I should know? Book in advance to make sure you bag a table.

Price: Main dishes from the grill cost around £20.


7. Princess of Wales Conservatory, Royal Botanic Gardens

Attractions Parks and gardens Kew

Best for: feasting your eyes on creepy carnivorous plants.

The Princess of Wales Conservatory has an impressive ten climatic zones, which means that it’s the most complicated conservatory at Kew. From cacti to ferns, orchids to titan arum (that's a really stinky plant, to you and me), and a zone dedicated to predatory plant species, this conservatory seems to have the entire world under one roof.

Anything else I should know? Fans of the soothing-voiced Sir David Attenborough should know that he buried a time capsule in the foundations of the Princess of Wales Conservatory in 1985, packed with seeds of endangered plant species. What a guy. 

Price: Entry to Kew Gardens from £16.50.

8. Museum of Brands, Packaging & Advertising

Museums History Ladbroke Grove

Best for: taking a trip down memory lane.

This colourful and nostalgia-rich collection of chocolate wrappers, royal souvenirs, toys, magazines has recently relocated to a bigger and better home. Its new digs include a bright, sunny cafe with glass walls overlooking a pretty garden. If the weather allows, marvel at the modern branding on your teabag at an outside table.

Anything else I should know? The Time Tunnel hosts changing exhibitions, including 'Time Out 50' - 50 of our greatest Time Out covers, on until 8 May, 2019.

Price: From £9


9. Chiswick House and Gardens

Attractions Historic buildings and sites Chiswick

Best for: Picnics in the preened gardens of an eighteenth-century villa.

The 18th-century Chiswick House is a European fantasy. There’s a lot on offer at this Italian-inspired villa and gardens in west London, but the conservatory is the jewel in its crown.

Anything else I should know? Inside the conservatory keep your eyes peeled for one of the last two remaining ‘Middlemist Red’ camellias, one of the rarest flowers in the world.

Price: Entry to the garden is free, the tickets to the house cost from £7.80.

10. Horniman Museum Conservatory

Things to do Forest Hill

Best for: getting major tile envy

Part of the fascinatingly quirky Horniman Museum and Gardens, the Horniman Conservatory is an incredible grade II listed structure. It was originally created in the nineteenth century, and more recently renovated with the help of English Heritage. Fitted out with a stunning new tiled floor, it now serves as a space for performances ranging from music to film to poetry. Lovely stuff.

Anything else I should know? Many visitors arrive mid-morning; come first thing or a bit later - after 2.30pm - to avoid the rush.

Price: Free

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